The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is shelling out nearly $20 million in new funding to boost plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV) research, specifically focusing on developing new battery technology and producing more in-depth analysis of the overall hybrid market.
DOE selected five projects for $17.2 million worth of grants under its collaboration with the United States Advanced Battery Consortium (USABC) to address critical barriers to PHEV commercialization, specifically battery cost and battery life. The University of Michigan will receive $2 million to spearhead a study exploring the future of PHEVs.
Kevin Kolevar, Assistant Secretary for Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, said this new funding is part of the federal government’s new “Twenty in Ten” plan that aims to displace 20% of U.S. gasoline usage by 2017 through greater use of renewable fuels and increased vehicle efficiency. PHEVs have the potential to displace a large amount of gasoline by delivering up to 40 miles of electric range without recharging, he said – a distance that would include most daily roundtrip commutes.
“These projects will help provide the perspective and expertise necessary to get plug-in hybrid electric vehicles out of the laboratory and into the showroom … reducing our reliance on oil by increasing the use of clean energy technologies,” Kolevar noted.
He added that the University of Michigan’s two-year study of the PHEV market funded by DOE will be coordinated by the Michigan Memorial Phoenix Energy Institute (MMPEI) and include help from DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, General Motors, Ford Motor Co., and DTE Energy.
Kolevar said the study’s goals are to evaluate how PHEVs would share the power grid with the country’s other energy needs, monitor the public’s evolving view of PHEVs and provide national-level empirical data on how driving behavior differs with these vehicles compared to conventional gasoline, diesel, and hybrid vehicles. It’ll also see if PHEVs reduce greenhouse gas emissions and identify how automakers could optimize PHEV design to increase performance while reducing cost. A preliminary report should be released in January 2008 at the Detroit Auto Show, he said.